Online Courses Versus In-Person: Debate Continues

Traditionally speaking, the word ‘class’ elicits images of desks, chalkboards and a professor standing in front of the classroom instructing students on what page to turn their textbook to. In the 21st century digital age, however, that is being challenged with the rise of online classes.

In January 2018, USA Today reported that federal data revealed that over 6.3 million American college students took a minimum of one online class during the fall 2016 semester, a number that has undoubtedly increased since then. Marist is just one of many colleges and universities to offer this innovative new way of learning. Between being able to complete the coursework at one’s leisure, having a more flexible schedule that allows greater opportunity for students to work and intern during times they would traditionally be in class, and a greater sense of independence, there are some tangible pros to an online education. There can be, however, a learning curve, according to students who have enrolled in these courses.

“You definitely do have to adapt to it because all of your assignments are written out, and I learn better being physically in the classroom,” said Brianna Coba ‘20. “Whereas this, I feel like you are more teaching yourself.  The structure of the class is different, your grade is mainly based on discussion posts, and responding to your peers, instead of being tested and having projects.”

This learning curve, however, is worth it, according to Rachel Godwin ‘19, who reported “not having to physically go to class and being able to work on the class in my own time” as the top two reasons she enjoys being enrolled in an online course.

“Because I am taking five other classes, six all together so I’m balancing all of those, it is nice to just have to do my work for this class and not have to go to class for this one on top of all the others,” Godwin said.

Coba also agreed that her schedule impacted her decision to enroll in an online course. “[I took an online course] Because of scheduling conflicts and because I have an internship and I was initially going to have all 8 a.m. [classes] and commute into the city and I thought that would be too much. I could do it on my own time with my internship instead of having to attend class.”  

One important aspect of taking an online class is understanding the fact that all communication between professors and peers will be completed online. “If there’s something I don’t understand it’s hard to ask because all communication is done online so there can be some ambiguity and such,” Godwin said. Fellow senior Taylor Albert ‘19, who took all of her courses while participating in Marist in Manhattan, the college’s internship program based in New York City, echoed this sentiment.

“I probably wouldn’t take another online class only because I prefer being in a classroom setting and being face to face with my professor and classmates, rather than talking online,” Albert said. Balancing these online courses for this one semester Albert was off-campus was rather manageable, however. “It wasn’t too bad to balance the homework with [internship] work because the deadlines to post/hand in assignments was towards the end of the week so I could work on them a little bit each night after work,” Albert said.

Though Godwin also enjoys her online class, she admitted that there are some shortcomings to the system and therefore, taking a typical class with a professor in person can be more beneficial to greater material comprehension.

“I’d say I learn more in in-person classes because it’s more hands on,” Godwin said.The debate between online versus in-person courses is one that will surely continue on in the coming years as the world becomes increasingly dependent on technology. Will convenience prevail? Or will courses continue to be taken predominantly in a traditional classroom setting? Only time will reveal the answer.